La Preciosa: The Search for the Best Bagnet in Ilocos

If the thought of eating bagnet -- of sinking your teeth into juicy fat, of hearing the crackle of chomped skin -- doesn’t excite you, then close your browser now and never return to this blog ever again. OK OK, I’m joking. Keep reading. I need to convince you that bagnet is the best thing that ever happened on earth -- or, the best dish in Ilocos, at least. A reason to trudge up north and endure butt pains over a 10-hour drive.

While it’s true that I wanted to taste authentic pinakbet and feast on the local longganisa, it was certainly the bagnet which seemed to haunt my dreams more. Yes, I could eat bagnet right here in Manila, but I can’t eat them here while gazing at a gorgeous white-sand beach, for example. Or  while watching a kalesa passing by a vintage city.


Don’t miss any of these posts in the Ilocos 2014 series:


What’s the big deal with those fried pork belly things, you ask. How dare you call it “pork belly things”! How dare you speak of bagnet with blasphemy! It’s no ordinary pork belly. It’s a heavenly, heart-attack-inducing piece of pork belly, immersed repeatedly in hot oil to achieve that perfect crisp, something resembling lechon kawali, but better. Ten times better.

Upon arrival in Laoag, we immediately looked around for empanadas, but I figured that the night couldn’t end without my lips touching even one damn piece of bagnet. So we went out, asked around, and found ourselves in La Preciosa, an Ilocano restaurant and café in downtown Laoag.

From the looks of it, they were about to close when we got there: waiters were clearing out tables, folding the linen, and the cashier was summing up some numbers in her notebook. However, they said we could still order, so happily we headed upstairs.

I liked La Preciosa’s interiors: elegant but casual, homey, and exuding the aura of a wedding reception. It actually looked like a house converted into a restaurant. I loved the wooden floors and the adequate lighting, as well as the circular tables perfect for families.

La Preciosa’s menu is so extensive, I found it overwhelming to choose just one dish. Not that I hated my travel buddy, but at that moment I wished there were more of us. The fact that each dish is good for 2 to 3 people didn’t help either, although I wouldn’t really complain about huge servings. I just wished there were more of us to share a variety.

We ordered the pinakbet—a hefty bowl of sliced eggplants, okra, string beans, winged beans (sigarilyas), chicharo, chili peppers, and tomatoes. The sauce is rich, thickened by tomatoes I presume, and felt almost like a really viscous sinigang broth. Alright, gooey. Pardon the nerdy choice of adjectives, but even “gooey” isn’t accurate enough. The bagoong flavor is strong—if not for the tomatoes, it would’ve been too salty for me.

I’m not sure if this was authentic pinakbet, because I’ve been told that the real one would not involve sautéing. La Preciosa’s version? The garlic taste was all over the vegetables. They say only the Tagalog folks employ sautéing, and that the Ilocano version is made only by boiling the ingredients in a traditional palayok.

One of my Titas cooked that for us once, and it tasted very “clean” and fresh despite the bagoong, reminiscent of the Utan Bisaya I had in Cebu before. Oh well, La Preciosa’s pinakbet was delicious anyway. I loved the tomato-ey sauce, especially.

A few minutes into dinner, my friend spotted this piece of hair in our pinakbet, and we promptly vomited all over the tables! OMG! What is this?!? What the EFF is this?!

Having recovered, we ordered what we came here for: the bagnet. The locals were right: La Preciosa’s bagnet was awesome. The golden-brown meat was so tender it was like biting into cotton candy—no exaggeration here! Fat, meat and skin all have the right amount of crisp, not crumbling, but lending a perfect bite.

I couldn’t believe how perfect this bagnet was, considering that we had arrived at closing time. You’d think their food was already stale, or that we would be served tough, reheated bagnet, but no! The KBL salad (kamatis, bagoong, lasona) made the crunchy bagnet better, and kept refreshing my palate to crave for more and more bagnet!

I don’t want to spoil you of future posts about bagnet from other restaurants in Ilocos, but I can’t resist saying this either: La Preciosa’s bagnet was the best I have tasted while I was in Ilocos. It was unbeatable.

We had wanted to try some cakes from their gorgeous display but after finishing our mains, the waiters had all changed out of their uniforms and walked around naked and seemed to be itching to go home, so we decided to get dessert somewhere else.

But in general, I still find my first meal at Laoag very enjoyable. Service was a little hurried, and the servers weren’t so hospitable, but the ambience was really nice and the food was good. Hell, the bagnet was too awesome for words!

La Preciosa
Fine Dining and Catering Services
Rizal St., Laoag City, Ilocos Norte
+63.77.773.1162/ +63.77.773.2159
Official website: La Preciosa
Facebook: La Preciosa
Cost of our meal for two: around PhP450 (pinakbet, bagnet, 2 plain rice)

Have you been to Ilocos? Which local dish is your favorite? What other Ilocano specialties have you tried at La Preciosa? Share your thoughts in the Disqus section below!

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